MMA Ratings Podcast

October 11, 2009

NJ State Athletic Control Board's new Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Rules just released

Nick Lembo, Legal Counsel for the NJSACBBy Katrina Belcher (

Nick Lembo, the the legal counsel for the New Jersey Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), just released the new Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules and Regulations, to be in effect starting January 1, 2010.

Since I was one of the commentators who contributed to the revised rules and offered a few suggestions myself, I thought it would be interesting to review the new rules and ask Mr. Lembo a few questions that came to mind.

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy day and answer a few, well, a lot of questions for me! Q & A as follows (and don't forget this applies to Amateur events, except where a request for pro-events has been asked and answered).

KB: Hey Nick - thanks for taking the time to answer my questions today - I greatly appreciate your input! I've got quite a few questions for you today, based on your release of the newly-adopted Amateur Unified MMA Rules and Regulations.

For "No split or different style events" - what is the the reasoning behind this decision? Why not have split cards?

Mr. Lembo: We simply have enough events in NJ and we also like to separate officials all the way down to inspectors, with expertise in each particular sport. We have about 50 amateur mixed martial arts events this year alone.

KB: National Database Event Registration - So promoters in NJ must first apply to the state for an ammy event, and then submit another application to register their event with the ABC? Who exactly will approve their event, MMA.TV or the ABC?

Mr. Lembo: No, promoters simply must also register their event on the ABC designated record keeper. That is a requirement in all Commission jurisdictions. It serves to approve bouts, track records and notice suspensions. They don't need approval from MMA.TV or the ABC.

KB: Weighing of mixed martial artists - So catch weights are no longer permitted, and no more weigh-ins the day before, which as we all know allows contestants to rehydrate and put weight back on before the fight - often times giving them an unfair advantage. Is this the sole reason for this decision, or is there another reason? Is this going to be the same for pro-fights?

Mr. Lembo: This is just how we have conducted amateurs in NJ. It is tough to have these kids who aren't getting paid, to ask them to come in the day before as well, for a weigh in.

KB: Cage requirements - This pretty much looks like you're saying "no boxing rings allowed - just cages." Are you going to require promoters who have been using rings to now switch to cages?

Mr. Lembo: The cage is the best fighting area for amateurs and easier to manage.

KB: Protective equipment requirements - Do you really make female fighters wear this stuff, or can they elect not to?

Mr. Lembo: Rashguard shirts yes, some type of breast protection, ie sports bra; groin protection, up to them.

KB: Appearance - Per the rules and regulations, "A contestant may request that his opponent be cleanly shaven immediately prior to competition, except that a contestant may wear a closely cropped mustache or beard. The inspector or commission representative may also determine whether head or facial hair presents any hazard to the safety of the contestant or their opponent or will interfere with the supervision and conduct of the event." (emphasis added)

This begs the question - what if Kimbo Slice fights in NJ? Will you make him shave or trim his beard? Because even this rule seems to be the standard in most states, we see a lot of fighters who get away with full-grown beards.

Mr. Lembo: Mercer did not require Kimbo to trim his beard, again we are talking amateurs here.

KB: Also - (b) Hair shall be trimmed or tied back in such a manner as not to interfere with the vision of either contestant or cover any part of a contestant's face.

Similar question - what about contestants with long hair who let it go wild, a la Clay Guida - will they be required to cut their hair or?

Mr. Lembo: Not cut it, but tie it back.

KB: Fouls - The following fouls I found to be interesting:
"16. Kicking the head of an opponent."

Didn't kicking techniques to head, body and legs to a standing opponent used to be allowed? Are they now no longer allowed, or does this just apply to a downed opponent?

Mr. Lembo: In our amateur program, kicking to the head has never been allowed.

KB: "17. Kneeing the Head of an opponent."
Same thing with knees to the body and legs - didn't this just apply to a downed opponent? Is it now to a standing opponent as well?

Mr. Lembo: Similiar answer.

KB: Licensing - "All paperwork, such as the contestant form, waivers, medicals, id card application and photo must be received by this office no later than 4:30 p.m. three days prior to the scheduled event."

Sometimes a fighter may be forced out of fighting his/her scheduled event. In this case, if a promoter can find a replacement, will you make an exception to allow them to submit paperwork after the 3-day prior requirement?

Mr. Lembo: For late replacements, it is possible.

KB: Medicals - a) "All medicals are due to be received by this agency no later than 4:30 p.m. three days prior to the scheduled event."

Same as licensing above - will you make an exception to allow them to submit their medicals after the 3-day prior requirement?

Mr. Lembo: Same answer.

KB: b) Also - is there a date limit on medicals. For example, can records be 12 months old or more?

Mr. Lembo: Time frames are stated in the proposal.

KB: c) "Every contestant must submit the physical on the prescribed form. The physical must be signed by a licensed physician and conducted no earlier than 60 days prior to the event date."

Just wondering here - you do take out of state medical records, right?

Mr. Lembo: Yes, but maybe not certain foreign country medicals.

KB: Insurance - "No contestant may waive the insurance coverage. Further, contestants are not responsible for any deductible payments."

So you don't require contestants to carry health insurance is this correct? I've found most health insurance carriers will not cover individuals who participate in combat-type ammy or pro-fights, so even if they are injured, during training or in the cage, those injuries will not be covered. Is this the reason why you require promoters cover the fighters?

Mr. Lembo: Contestants do not have to have their own coverage. The promoter gets the required coverage specifically for MMA on the fighters behalf.

KB: Matchmaker License - If a matchmaker from another state works with a NJ promoter to find fighters, should they be licensed in NJ?

Mr. Lembo: Yes.

KB: Fighter Purses - "The promoter may not pay any purse or win bonus to the competitor but may pay the actual cost of travel expenses, lodging and or meals."

Is there a limit on the amount a promoter can pay for travel expenses, lodging and/or meals, or do you just require they obtain receipts from the contestants and reimburse them?

Mr. Lembo: No limit, just provable, for example a hotel room in Atlantic City can easily cost $400 on a Saturday night.

KB: What about throwing in the towel - is that rule not going to be allowed? How about in pro- fights?

Mr. Lembo: Allowed in both.

KB: A lot of states don't require MMA referees be paid for ammy bouts. NJ has set up a good pay structure for your ammy refs. Do pro-MMA referees make the same rate, or do you have a different pay scale for them?

Mr. Lembo: Pro refs generally make more, minimum is $200, maximum is set by venue ticket sales, has been as high as $1,500.

KB: And now for the big one! With the addition of classes to include "Super" weights and the "Absolute Weight" there are now nineteen (19) weight classes? That's a lot - and I remember when people were objecting to "just" 14 weight classes. I've always heard you were against such a drastic increase in the number of weight classes - are you still? Any comments on this, and to confirm, will this just apply to Amateur fights, not Professional fights?

Mr. Lembo: Yes, I am very against added weight classes for pros, but AGAIN, the pros are a whole different story.

The amateurs, with so many classes and same day weigh ins, there is no real reason to cut so much weight, we routinely end up with competitors within a pound or less of each other which is good FOR AMATEURS.


Nick Lembo is a true gentleman and mixed martial arts advocate. Better yet - he has the interests of the fighters as his core motivation for improving current MMA rules and regulations. In my opinion, there's not a better man for the job.

Weight classes of amateur mixed martial artists.

(a) Amateur mixed martial artists shall be divided into the following classes:
01 - Flyweight (up to 112 lbs.)
02 - Bantamweight (over 112 to 118 lbs.)
03 - Super Bantamweight (over 118 to 122 lbs.)
04 - Featherweight (over 122 to 126 lbs.)
05 - Super Featherweight (over 126 to 130 lbs.)
06 - Lightweight (over 130 to 135 lbs.)
07 - Super Lightweight (over 135 to 140 lbs.)
08 - Welterweight (over 140 to 147 lbs.)
09 - Super Welterweight (over 147 to 154 lbs.)
10 - Middleweight (over 154 to 161 lbs.)
11 - Super Middleweight (over 161 to 168 lbs.)
12 - Light Heavyweight (over 168 to 175 lbs.)
13 - Super Lt Heavyweight (over 175 to 182 lbs.)
14 - Cruiserweight (over 182 to 190 lbs.)
15 - Super Cruiserweight (over 190 to 197 lbs.)
16 – Light Heavyweight (over 197 to 210 lbs.)
17 - Heavyweight (over 210 lbs. to 235 lbs.)
18- Super Heavyweight (over 235 to 265 lbs.)
19- Absolute Weight (over 265 lbs.)

For more info: New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.

1 comment:

  1. Katrina, This is such a great service you provide!

    One thing I wasn't clear about: did NL confirm whether or not day before weigh-ins would be allowed for pro-fights?


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